IF Tyler Burey makes his full Millwall debut at Boreham Wood this Saturday, he will play with the same fearlessness that has brought him this far.
It’s the way he has always played the game.
When Burey, 19, left Fulham’s academy as a schoolboy, he went into Sunday League football, seeking games “as much as possible” to try to catch the eye of scouts.
That determination paid off when AFC Wimbledon noticed his talent. Burey played in a trial game and on the back of that was offered a six-week academy trial. Four weeks in, the Dons had seen enough, and signed him on a two-year scholarship.
As a 16-year-old he trained with the first team, a group that included former Millwall defender and now Lions coach Paul Robinson.
“It was hard because I was in an academy environment from very young,” Burey tells NewsAtDen. “Fulham were in the Premier League when I was there, and it was any young player’s dream to play in the Premier League.
“But then situations happen and sometimes things happen that are outside of your control. Once I left Fulham I just went back into Sunday League. I played football as much as possible. Anywhere I could play – Sunday League, tournaments – literally any football I could play I would.”
His mum, Stephanie, was and is a major influence. The head of sport at Stanmore College, and a former teacher, she knows what makes youngsters tick, the kind of encouragement they need to take them towards their goals.
“My mum’s helped me all the way”, Burey says. “My mum’s taken me training, my dad as well. My mum tells me to keep working, there’s going to be a chance.
“I had to work on myself as much as possible. I had to go back to grassroots to get back to where I wanted to be.
“My mum knew how you had to be mentally strong. With my education as well she always helped me. It was the best of both worlds with my education and football.”
Burey reflected on his journey after he made his senior professional debut, a 4-0 EFL Trophy win against Stevenage in November 2018.
“That was the start of any professional football for me, I was over the moon,” he says. “I was thinking, ‘I did it’. It’s the dream growing up to make your first-team debut or even just have your name on the back of your shirt.
“All the hard work, all the setbacks had come down to then and it just felt like a big comeback. When I took the drop from Fulham I knew it was going to be a very, very hard road back to where I wanted to be.”
Burey joined Millwall for compensation after his terms ran out at the end of the season.
“Millwall came in for me and they were just so keen on my ability,” he says. “Sometimes you have to take the next step in your career to better yourself. So I said my goodbyes to everyone who had helped me at Wimbledon.
“It’s one of the best steps I’ve taken. It’s been a rocky road but it’s been a good one as well.”
Burey’s determination to succeed is such that, between seasons, he takes on a trainer for individual sessions, working on “winger-based stuff: crossing, playing off one touch, finishing, dribbling with both feet.
“After training I do a lot of extras, including shooting. Whenever is the right time to do extras I’ll do extras.”
After joining the Lions in the summer of 2019 – when Neil Harris welcomed him to the training ground – Burey’s objective was to make his first-team debut. He did well with Kevin Nugent’s under-23s, but then football’s suspension in March put his ambitions on hold.
Not that Burey was ever going to let time drift passively by until the return.
“It was quite hard, but I’m quite independent and do a lot of stuff on my own. It was a time when you had to train on your own, make sure you stayed fit,” he says. “You couldn’t be unfit because at any moment you could get a call to say you’re back in training.
“I was doing my own stuff as well after the sessions we had been given. It was important to put your head to your work. You had to stay focused.”
Burey finally got his chance on the last day of the season when he came on in the 4-1 win over Huddersfield at The Den with 10 minutes left.
He explains how he felt when Gary Rowett told him to warm up. “My emotions were high, thinking, ‘this could be my chance’. But I was also telling myself if I didn’t get a chance, to stay humble, it’s another learning curve. The most important thing is to be ready.
“Everyone has nerves but everyone deals with them differently. When I got my chance I wanted to try to do what I could with the minutes I had. It’s the same as the games this season, I want to make as big an impact as possible and play with no fear. If I lose the ball, how quickly can I recover it?
“Playing with no fear is something I picked up from when I was young. I’m a one-v-one player so I like to get the ball to feet a lot, run at players as much as possible. The gaffer and Jed [Wallace] have helped me with things like, ‘play quickly, take one touch then move again’, to get into a one-v-one.
“It’s more about realising when to do a one-v-one and when not to. It helps my game develop more.”
Burey feels he’s in the ideal place for that.
“As soon as I walked into the building I just felt a warm welcome,” he says. “Even though Neil is gone now, there’s still that same warm feeling, it’s a good environment to be around. Everyone wants to help each other.
“That’s good for me to become a better player and be the best that I can be.
“I like to set myself targets at the start of the season. I keep them within arm’s reach, knowing what I can achieve if I work hard.
“One of the biggest goals at Millwall was to make my debut before the end of the season. I worked hard, I gave myself the best possible chance for the gaffer to give me a shot and luckily he did.
“I use players around and the players who have come up as inspiration that if they can do it, there’s nothing stopping me from doing it if I’m working hard.”
Image: Millwall FC